Accountable Governance: Cameron On Lagos And Africa


 Last week, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron was at the Pan African University, Ajah, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, to deliver a lecture on Aid, Trade and Democracy. He spoke extensively on accountable governance and singled out Lagos as a reference point. He also described the African continent as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Kazeem Ugbodaga, Senior Staff Writer takes a look at Cameron’s view on accountable governance and other issues.


The Pan African University, Ajah, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, last Tuesday, played host to one of its biggest events since the establishment of the institution. Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister visited the school to deliver a lecture and the Nigerian nation was the beneficiary of that visit.

Very early that day, eminent Nigerians, scholars, students and others converged on the university. Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos; Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi and the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, among several others were at the epoch-making event.

As Cameron mounted the podium, he dissected the topic of the lecture, Aid, Trade and Democracy, using governance in Lagos State under Fashola as a yardstick to evaluate and measure accountable governance. The assessment of the Fashola administration by Cameron was borne out of the transformation that had taken place in Lagos in the last four years.

“Governor Fashola has shown what strong and accountable governance can achieve,” he says, adding that the governor had shown the immense possibilities of a strong and accountable administration.

The Prime Minister, who was Guest Speaker at the event, said Fashola has demonstrated that true democracy and accountable leadership is possible on the African continent, adding that his visit had made it possible to give a personal testimony about Lagos.

“What I have seen in London, I have seen a hundred fold here today. From Eko Atlantic City and Balogun Street Market to the biggest part in the most populous country in Africa, you are transforming your state,” the Prime Minister told Fashola, a comment that elicited ovation from the audience comprising of intellectuals, businessmen from the United Kingdom and Nigeria as well as alumni and students of the Lagos Business School.

“But today, I’ve come here to Lagos because there’s another story unfolding on this continent, something that many in the West are only just waking up to. Tell me this: which part of the world has seen its number of democracies increase nearly eight-fold in just two decades? Eastern Europe? No, it’s Africa. Which continent has six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world? Asia? No, it’s Africa. Which country is predicted by some to have the highest average GDP growth in the world over the next 40 years?

“You might think Brazil, Russia, India or China. No. Think Africa. Think Nigeria. The point I want to make today, is this: This can be Africa’s moment. Africa is transforming in a way no-one thought possible 20 years ago and suddenly a whole new future seems within reach. I have known for a long time about the tremendous energy and ingenuity of the Nigerian people.

“From the civil activism of the churches of South London to the contribution of Nigerians to British business, law, medicine, sport and music, I have seen the passion and enterprise of Nigerians changing my country for the better. But what I have seen in London I have seen a hundred-fold here today,” he stated.

He urged African leaders to seize the existing opportunities for trade and growth in Africa to raise the living standards and lift millions of their people from poverty, stressing that with what he had seen in Lagos, the unfolding stories of rapid increase in democracies, fast-growing economies, predicted growth in Gross Domestic Product in Africa was indeed sustainable. “To people like Governor Fashola, President Goodluck Jonathan, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Ian Khama and John Atta Mills, falls the task of leading the charge in creating stronger governance,” adding, however, that the most important task of ensuring the institutionalization of democracy and good governance rested on the African people who, according to him, must stand up and hold their governments to account.

Noting that Africans are rising to the challenge of shaping their own future, Cameron declared, “Look here in Nigeria at the elections for President Goodluck Jonathan, look at Ghana, flourishing since it moved from military leadership to democracy with 14 per cent growth this year, look at the Ivory Coast; when Laurent Gbagbo tried to overturn an election result, ordinary Ivoriens and the African and international community as a whole refused to allow him to make the Ivory Coast his own personal fiefdom.

“From tackling election abuse in Zimbabwe to the political violence in Kenya, it’s not just about donors, governments, NGOs and the private sector; it is about you and what you do,” adding that Africans could help to grow democracy on the continent by holding their governments accountable, insisting on a bigger say in how their countries are run and standing up to participate in the economy of their nations.

“These are the demands that the people have made in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, these are the demands that have propelled the Arab Spring, and these are the demands which, supported by a revolution in trade and enterprise, mean Africa can seize its own moment of opportunity,” he added.

Cameron said for Africa to make the most of the opportunities available on the continent, it must properly apply aid from the West, as well as develop trade while democracy must continue to grow and flourish.

“It goes without saying that there can be no development, economic or otherwise, unless we deal with the disease and war in Africa. Every preventable death on this continent is a human tragedy. But it also leaves communities poorer and countless unable to build and create wealth. So, if we want Africa to climb the ladder of prosperity, we have to take urgent action to save lives,” he said.

He disclosed that Britain would keep its promise of increasing aid to the poorest countries of the world to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income from 2013, adding, however, that such aid would be attached to concrete projects such as those focused on saving lives, investment projects which would provide roads, the internet and infrastructure and such other catalytic way to unleash the dynamism of African economies.

“Other areas which could catalyze economic growth in Africa include private enterprise and trade. It has lifted hundreds of thousands out of poverty in Brazil, China and Indonesia. It can do the same in Africa.”

On democracy, Cameron denounced the notion by sceptics that Africa did not need democracy, saying that: “I believe the model of authoritarian capitalism we are seeing will fall short in the long term. When people get economically richer, they make legitimate demands for political freedoms to match their economic freedoms.

“This model is unable to respond. Neither can it offer the confidence and stability needed for investment. If you are going to set up in business, you need to know that you can go to a court confident that a contract will be enforced objectively – including against the government. And you need to know that your assets won’t suddenly be seized by the government. Free societies can provide this stability and confidence.

“So, I passionately believe in liberal democracy and I believe Africa can do it too. Let me be clear: this isn’t about imposing Western beliefs on Africa or neo-colonialism. I’m from the generation free of this shadow.”

Concluding his lecture, the British Prime Minister urged Africans to hold their governments accountable, adding that they could insist on a bigger say in how their country was run.

“You can stand up and say, in this generation my child should be vaccinated and go to school. And you can demand more participation in the economy – or simply a job. These are the demands the people have made in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

“These are the demands that have propelled the Arab Spring. And these are the demands, which supported by a revolution in trade and enterprise mean Africa can seize its own moment of opportunity. At stake is quite simply the chance to change millions of lives across the continent. The future of Africa is yours. But you have to seize it,” he said.

Speaking, Fashola asserted that Africa would play a most critical role in the future of the planet, adding that the world had become a global village so that what happened in one part could almost have the same effect on the other parts of the world.

“It is no understatement to assert that Africa will play a most critical role in the future of our planet. So much can happen in this decade. Our current reality vividly demonstrates that prosperity or adversity on one side of our planet has almost instantaneous consequences of prosperity or adversity on the other end,” he said.

He praised the British Prime Minister for the visit saying, “The trans-Atlantic visit such as undertaken by the Right Honourable Prime Minister is proof of the salutary leadership and very clear understanding of his role to transform these challenges to opportunities by stimulating mutuality of cooperation between our two countries in the areas such as increased trade, infrastructure renewal in critical areas like power and transport for economic growth; improved public health, promote global security, democracy and the defence of citizens’ rights to mention but a few.”

“I commend the motive behind this visit and welcome your desire to take on cooperation. I must acknowledge the business development and partnership orientation of the representatives of the British High Commission in Nigeria and the support that we have enjoyed from the Department for International Development (DFID) which, I dare say needs to be expanded,” the Governor said.

“We particularly seek collaboration towards encouraging and recruiting Nigerian professionals based in the Diaspora to look towards returning home to lend a hand to the efforts of nation building and so that we can bridge the gap in the remuneration package that the global economy provides and give them a sense of belonging.

“We are looking forward to a collaborative follow-up of limitless possibilities. Nigeria as a nation and Lagos in particular have a long political and economic relation with Britain. I hope that this visit will become a most symbolic reference point of the escalation of a revival of those relationships for mutual benefits which support the growth of both countries’ economies in a way that issues of poverty and human development can be remedied by the creation of economic opportunities,” he added.

Load more